Professor Catherine Wessinger,
Loyola University, New Orleans


Thank you for your inquiry. I will just elaborate on the points made by Tim Cahill in his message to you about our programs at Loyola New Orleans.

All undergraduates must take Introduction to World Religions. Then they can choose 2 courses from the upper-level Common Curriculum to fulfill 6 credit hours in Religious Studies. A total of 9 credit hours in Religious Studies is required at Loyola New Orleans. They may choose courses relating to various aspects of Christianity, Ethics, Theology, or the World Religions.

Religious Studies Majors may opt either for the Track in Christianity or the Track in World Religions.

We have 10 faculty who teach courses related to the Track in Christianity, and 2 faculty who teach courses related to the Track in World Religions. Admittedly, my own courses tend to apply to both tracks, such as my graduate course, Millennium Seminar (on millennialism). I also teach Women in Christianity.

On the World Religions side, I teach the following undergraduate courses: Hindu Paths to God, and Women in World Religions. I teach the following graduate courses: Religions of Asia, and Women in Religions and Cultures.

Tim Cahill has listed the courses that he teaches in his message to you.

Dan Sheridan, who used to be here, also taught Spiritual Ways of China, and his wife, Mary Ann Sheridan, taught Native American Religions. Unfortunately, these courses have not been offered since they left.

In the short term, I plan to develop a course on Religion and Media, which will be taught by various faculty at Jesuit universities in video interactive classrooms. This course will be taught at other Jesuit universities (Marquette, Santa Clara, Creighton, Loyola Chicago) beginning Spring 2001. Loyola New Orleans plans to get on board in Fall 2001 if we have an interactive classroom by then. JNET is supportive of this initiative, and it is intended to foster understanding of various religious traditions and a critical appraisal of how religions and believers are depicted in the media. After I get this course off the ground, I am thinking that perhaps I should obtain release time to prepare to teach Spiritual Ways of China.

I have done a good bit of work on new religious movements (NRMs). I was chair of the New Religious Movements Group at the American Academy of Religion for 6 years, and I am now co-editor of "Nova Religio: Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions." Fr. John Saliba, S.J., has argued that new religious movements need to be included in interreligious dialogue. After the tragedy at Waco in 1993, I and some colleagues have taken the initiative in educating FBI agents on how best to deal with apocalyptic groups and movements. I was an advisor to the FBI during the Freemen standoff in Montana in 1996, which had a totally different outcome. This year at the AAR, we will continue private meetings with FBI agents that have been going on since 1995. This is a form of dialogue between professionals with vastly different professional worldviews, a unique sort of interreligious dialogue. Believe me it is not easy to communicate across such divergent professional worldviews. This year I have published two books on the topic of millennialism and violence. I am editor of "Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases" (Syracuse University Press, 2000), and author of "How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven's Gate" (Seven Bridges Press, 2000). I argue that the manner in which persons in mainstream society INTERACT with members of unconventional religions is an important factor in determining the potential for volatility. Therefore, I am a strong advocate of dialogue that includes members of NRMs. So far I have not taught a course on new religious movements, except for my Millennium Seminar, but I incorporate a lot of my knowledge about NRMs into my other courses, including Intro to World Religions.

Let me offer a bit of clarification to Dr. Cahill's message. The Loyola campus has been visited in recent years by groups of Tibetan monks and nuns, who have performed their liturgies here on stage, and the nuns constructed a sand mandala in the student center. Loyola has provided a venue for these events, which have greatly enriched campus and city intellectual life, but Loyola was not the sponsor of these events. A person in the city working with a faculty member in the Music Department brought these monks and nuns to campus. The local Indian community regularly schedules Indian music performances on campus. I am thinking of working with a local person to bring a qigong teacher from China to Loyola in the Spring.

I noted that the Jesuit who writes on Zen Buddhism -- Robert Kennedy -- quoted a member of our department, Fr. Stephen Duffy in the Introduction to his book on Zen. Kennedy quoted Fr. Duffy's Yamauchi Lecture in Religion that was given some years ago on interreligious dialogue. I was very pleased to see a member of our department quoted in this book. Stephen Duffy is the faculty member who shaped the course offerings so that all undergraduates are required to take Intro to World Religions.

Tim Cahill and I will be interested in participating in a meeting on this topic if you decide to organize one.

With best regards,

Catherine Wessinger


Catherine Wessinger
504-865-3182 (office)
Professor and Chair
Religious Studies
Loyola University
6363 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70118


Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions

Created: October 17, 2000 Updated: October 17, 2000